Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tier 8 Strongholds and CW Tank Reviews

Hey guys,

The_Ghghp here, back with a new guide for y'all to digest. It's been a decently long break from my previous post, but for good reason. I promise that today's guide will keep you busy for a while.

Today I'll be talking in-depth about the different choices of tier 8 tanks for strongholds. Though some tanks are clearly more effective than others, the key of success is not always limited to the IS-3 and T-54 Lightweight. In fact, the ability to adapt and tweak team composition as needed to tailor a specific strategy and caller is absolutely crucial. This guide will go over a selection of tier 8 tanks, and what roles in battles they can serve.

The tanks I reviewed are arranged into their classes. Each class will be provided with a description of their roles and effectiveness in battle. Each tank has a short explanation of why this tank is viable, and how and where they are effective. I left out tanks that are generally never chosen for competitive strongholds/CW, in my experience and opinion. There is no single "best" lineup or even tank choice, as each player (and battle caller) has their own preference, experience, and results, so don't take my opinions as a final word.

[Warning: the following section contains a lot of text and images]

A tank can have one or more of the following roles:
  • Scout - the tank scouts enemy tanks, allowing other team members to fire upon them.
  • Skirmisher - the tank follows a small group to suddenly brawl with a group of enemy tanks, the direct engagement usually lasting for a short time.
  • Support - the tank stays behind in the second-line, providing fire support for the team.
  • Ambusher - the tank stays hidden until an enemy tank is in a vulnerable position, and releases a large burst of damage, usually through an autoloader or large alpha gun. The tank then runs away and becomes hidden again while reloading.
  • Assault - the tank pushes a flank with a group, and gradually advances to the enemy to destroy them.
  • Bunker - the tank locks down a flank with the threat of sustained fire and solid armor to hinder an enemy advance.
The roles of each tank are listed from order of highest importance to lowest.

Premium tanks are highlighted.

The Light Tanks


Light tanks are the scouts and the quick flex powers of a team in tier 8 strongholds. Unlike tier 6 strongholds, where many mediums could scout effectively, light tanks are absolutely crucial in tier 8 strongholds. The team with the better scouts wins the match in the vast majority of maps, since scouts light up the enemy tanks and allow the rest of the team to get multiple shots off before the other team has a chance to retaliate. Having your best players in light tanks is often more effective than having them drive any other tank class. However, this does not mean light tanks should make up too much of a lineup. Due to low HP and alpha damage, light tanks should only be brought in limited numbers - nothing more than 3 or 4.

T-54 Lightweight: the most commonly seen tier 8 light tank for strongholds? But why? Doesn't it have lower DPM, penetration, view range, top speed, and gun depression compared to other light tanks such as the RU 251? True, but the T-54 Lightweight works so well because of its sheer combat and wolfpacking potential. The T-54 Lightweight boasts amazing gun handling, excellent HP and armor (especially on the turret) for a light tank, and agility that allows it to simply zig-zag all over the place. Overall, the T-54 Lightweight is a tank that combines good parts from light tanks and medium tanks into an extremely reliable tier 8 strongholds tank which can scout and skirmish, depending on the situation and the preference of the battle caller.

Roles: SkirmisherScoutSupport

AMX 13 90: also a popular tank for strongholds. The AMX 13 90 has great view range, great camo, and a large 6 shell autoloader, giving it the clear upper hand in some situations. However, due to the limitations of DPM and staying power from carrying an autoloader, in addition to the especially severe vulnerability the 13 90 possesses while reloading a magazine, makes it a niche tank and difficult to abuse. Therefore, the playstyle of an entire team shifts in a different direction when the 13 90 is brought, turning from a typical flex routine into more of a playstyle of ambushing the enemy when the opportunity arises after mostly passive play in the early game. Since many maps render this tactic inferior to more orthodox tactics, the 13 90 should be used with care.

Roles: Scout, Ambusher, Support

RU 251/WZ-132: the RU 251 is a light tank with high DPM, the highest speed limit in the game, great view range, great camo, and great gun depression. This tank showcases all the strengths of a light tank. However, the RU 251's paper thin armor and low module resistance make it less effective in close-range skirmishes, giving it a disadvantage in certain maps. Therefore, the RU 251 should be played mostly as a specialist scout on certain maps that allow it to abuse it strengths more reliably, such as open maps. Due to its low durability and high specialization, only one RU 251 should be brought at a maximum in most cases. The WZ-132 has some differences from the RU-251, most notably increased armor and a gun with higher shell velocity in exchange for worse DPM , poor gun depression, and a lower top speed. They have slight differences, but both are effective in their own ways.

Roles: ScoutSkirmisherSupport

M 41 90 GF: a very similar tank to the two mentioned above, it has slightly less DPM and top speed than the RU 251 but more of both than the WZ-132. It's uniform 8 degrees of gun depression also feels less awkward than the RU 251's. However, its weak modules, thin armor, and low HP means it should only be used if you want to trade consistency for a potential to make more credits.

Roles: Scout, SkirmisherSupport

The Medium Tanks


Medium tanks have fallen out of favor with tier 8 strongholds for a while. This is mainly due to the strength of light tanks such as the T-54 Lightweight that outclass tier 8 medium tanks in many of their flex roles, and the generally low power level of tier 8 mediums when compared to tier 8 heavies. However, certain medium tanks still have some areas where they excel at, and may be brought in substitution of 1 or 2 other tanks if players truly feel they will do better in them.

Object 416: though arguably map-dependent, the Object 416 can be described as a TD/medium tank hybrid. Boasting excellent DPM, good alpha damage and penetration (with a nasty 330mm penetration HEAT round), superb gun handling, high camo, and excellent mobility, the Object 416 can be a truly devastating force multiplier, defender, and sniper. However, due to its rear-mounted and restricted turret, weak modules, low HP, and terrible gun depression, it can feel rather frustrating to play on certain maps and in certain situations. Although the Object 416 does a good job in providing mobile firepower, it can really struggle to play like and match the capabilities of traditional flex tanks, so many players find more reliability and comfort in other tanks. This does not demerit the use of an Object 416 if a player can play the tank to its strengths, however.

Roles: Support, SkirmisherScout

T69: a compact, mobile, and bursty tank with great view range and gun depression. The T69 excels at the support role and more passive play that seeks to punish and ambush enemy tanks, and is a strong tank overall. However, the fact that it uses an autoloader means that it will struggle in aggressive tactics where sustained fire, high DPM single shot guns are the norm. The T69 is an effective tank in certain playstyles, however, and if a clan wants to try out a more unorthodox lineup, then the T69 is a solid contender as an ambush based support tank.

Roles: Ambusher, Support

Pershing: great view range, great gun depression, and good turret armor due to its mantlet. It works particularly well at abusing terrain, and has acceptable mobility and average firepower, with a high APCR pen and good handling in exchange for low DPM. Its sheer all-around ability makes it a reliable choice for strongholds. However, its lack of specialization means that it doesn't particularly reward any specific strategy, so it should only be used sparingly.

Roles: Skirmisher, Support, BunkerScout

How about the premium medium tanks like the CDC? They are not competitive. Most of them feature unimpressive, standard issue 90mm (or 8.8cm for German tanks) guns which only deal around 240 damage per shot. Furthermore, unlike the Pershing, they aren't able to make up for their mediocre firepower with sheer flexibility. Therefore, with the exception of the M46 Patton KR (which is essentially a Pershing clone as of patch 9.17) they should generally not be used.

The Heavy Tanks


Heavy tanks are often the most common tank class used in tier 8 strongholds. This is largely due to the noticeably higher strength of tier 8 heavy tanks compared to tier 8 medium tanks, the most immediate example being the IS-3. They have much higher firepower than mediums, and more durability, yet many are still reasonably mobile. Furthermore, many tier 8 mediums have low DPM. All this has contributed to the meta in tier 8 strongholds to consist of mostly heavy tanks.

IS-3: The absolute powerhouse of tier 8 strongholds. The combination of high mobility, high alpha, decent (aimed) accuracy, and a sleek, well-armored profile often earns the IS-3 four to six tank slots in a lineup, if not more. The potential of the tank to simply focus-fire down other tier 8s due to its punishing gun, and its ability to flex around the battlefield quickly for a heavy tank, as well as its capability to hold a flank through sidescraping simply gives it unrivaled raw effectiveness in tier 8 strongholds. It's only noticeable drawback is its short 350m view range, making it more dependent on scouts to spot.

Roles: Assault, Skirmisher, Bunker

T32: While the T32 might not be as effective as the IS-3 in raw offense, the T32's boasts the the toughest turret of any tier 8, combined with a generous 10 degrees of gun depression. This makes it one of the best bunker/defensive tanks. The gun, while not as punchy as the IS-3's, has increased DPM to compliment the defensive playstyle. With 400m of view range, its vision is vastly better. Its speed is also adequate enough to follow a pack of IS-3s, if necessary. Being so well-rounded, it is a common sight in a variety of strongholds lineups.

Roles: Assault, Bunker, Skirmisher

AMX 50 100: The AMX is used for one reason: a 6 shell autoloader that can dish out 1800 potential damage in a single magazine. With good speed for a heavy tank, it is the ultimate ambush tank and force-multiplier. However, its terrible armor, large size, and low HP can be punished severely during its ~45 second reload. This causes its playstyle to be inflexible, relying solely on ambushing and hit-and-run tactics. Therefore, the AMX 50 100 is usually limited to 1 or 2 spots in a lineup at most.

Roles: Ambusher, Support

T26E5: a recently released premium that can act as a replacement for the T32, if you were able to afford it. It is a direct improvement in many aspects, since it is faster, smaller, and has more firepower in exchange for just a slight downgrade in protection. It's main drawback is low alpha damage, which could become a problem in certain situations against tanks such as the IS-3. However, its sheer DPM advantage will surely pull it out of most situations.

Roles: Assault, Skirmisher, Bunker

AMX M4 mle. 49: extremely strong frontal armor that can block even premium rounds combined without sacrificing mobility. It also boasts high penetration with -10 gun depression. However, it falls short in DPM, gun handling, and side armor. Therefore, it works well in a linear push or in defense, but close-range combat should not be attempted.

Roles: AssaultBunker

The Tank Destroyers


Tank destroyers are largely outclassed by heavy tanks, since although they offer some advantage in firepower, they are hindered by low HP, the lack of a turret, and/or poor mobility. However, they could be used in some defensive strategies.

Rhm-Borsig Waffentrager: a TD with a fully traversable turret, unique for its tier. Though it has paper armor, it can still be useful in many situations thanks to its turret, high camo values, and acceptable mobility. It has the option to use a large 15cm gun which, although reliant on HEAT spam, has simply tremendous alpha. The 12.8cm gun offers less, but still high damage, as well as good DPM. Due to its unusually high flexibility and good firepower, the Borsig is the one exception to the no-TD meta in tier 8 strongholds.

Roles: Support, Ambusher

The Artillery

Though it is still perfectly viable to run no artillery, the use of 1, even 2 artillery pieces can be useful to break up a defensive bunker or camp, depending on the map and overall strategy of a lineup. Also, since there are more tanks on one team in tier 8 strongholds compared to tier 6 strongholds, the loss of HP and DPM from one or two tank slots is less severe. Furthermore, due to the abundance of heavy tanks such as the T32  that promote camping more frequently, arty can be nice to have around as a trump card in some situations.

M40/M43: a powerful artillery piece with high damage, a decently wide gun arc, and adequate mobility. The GW Tiger P has more alpha, but it is effectively worse due to very poor mobility and a small gun arc. Therefore, the M40/M43 is the most commonly used heavy artillery.

Roles: Support/Ambusher

Lorraine 155 51: its alpha damage is the lowest of any tier 8 artillery, but it makes up for it with higher accuracy and ROF. This can be useful for putting constant pressure on enemy tanks due to increased consistency of the gun. Furthermore, the Lorraine is very fast and can quickly relocate or flee, giving it a clear advantage in flexibility compared to other tier 8 artillery.

Roles: Support/Ambusher

Examples of Tank Lineups

Example Video Credit: [OMNI]

In both tier 8 strongholds in CW, one team is allowed to bring up to 10 tier 8 tanks, (or a minimum of 8 tier 6 tanks). Though this guide will not go into full detail on how to build a tank lineup, since that is largely influenced by caller preference, playstyle, and skill level, there is one important difference that distinguishes the two modes.

The map and spawn side are randomly decided during Strongholds skirmishes, while in CW the map and spawn side are predetermined and known before the match. This means in Strongholds, you will have to go with whatever lineup you have chosen before battle, while in CW, it becomes much more complex since you will be able to tailor a playstyle and specific tank lineup for a map beforehand.

Here are some examples that distinguish some differences between the two:

Example lineup for Strongholds:

  • 5-6 IS-3's
  • 2 T-54 Lightweight's
  • 1-2 T32's
  • 1 AMX 50 100 or 1 M40/M43
This lineup is "general purpose". You have a good mix of assault and bunker defense with the IS-3's and T32's, T-54 LW's to scout and skirmish, and a 50 100 or artillery piece to ambush out-of-place enemies. You can easily win many games by focus firing and pushing with the IS-3s, but you can also adjust to an alternate strategy with ease.

Example lineup for CW on the map Steppes on South Spawn (thanks to EU clan [OMNI] for sharing):
  • 6-8 T-54 Lightweight's
  • 1-3 RU-251's
  • 1 M40/M43
This is an extreme example of the "map tailoring" that happens in CW. Steppes is a partially sectioned but overall flat map. This favors heavy vision tactics, with fast skirmish tanks that can quickly relocate and focus down enemies as support, or preying on groups with by surrounding them. This explains the high number of T-54 LW's. The artillery is included to break any potential bunkers/camps, and the RU-251's increased long-range and ridge-poking capacity can cover for the T-54 LW's weaknesses. Overall, this tailored tank lineup could easily crush the more general one above, for this specific map.

You made it! That's the end of the guide. As always, thanks for reading, and if you found what you read useful, consider checking out my other guides as well. 


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